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Introducing Mystery Class #3
Angangueo, Mexico 19.617 N, 100.300 W

Bienvenidos a Angangueo!

Millions of monarchs!

This Mystery Class location is a familiar place to those who've tracked the monarch butterfly migration since February. Just think, while you carefully noted the change in day length at Mystery site #3, millions of monarch butterflies did too!

Lengthening photoperiod is the butterflies' cue that spring is approaching and it's time to begin their migration.

Pedro Ascencio School and Students

A School in the Sanctuaries
Located near the mountains that contain the world's only winter home to millions of monarch butterflies is the primary school of Pedro Ascencio.There are many primary schools, but after grade level six, students may only choose between two secondary schools. After two years in secondary school, they may apply for preparatory school. Not everyone is able to pass the necessary exams or can afford to pay tuition for this level of education. The students that do pass will study for four more years and usually consider college or a university after graduation.

Profesor Salazar

The only teacher and director of Pedro Ascencio is Gilberto Salazar, who works with about 22 students in grade levels K- 6. At Pedro Ascensio, classes start by 9:00 am with a school assembly on Mondays, where the national anthem is sung while honoring the Mexican flag. All students must wear uniforms, both for sports and for class.

Profesor Salazar teaches all subjects, including English, but it is very hard to learn this subject as there are very few people who speak English in this community. Therefore it is easier for all the students to continue speaking in Spanish, or even for some, their indigenous language of Mazahua.

Students holding their paper butterflies

Students from Pedro Ascencio participated in the Journey North Symbolic Monarch Butterfly Migration Project, where students across the United States and Canada created thousands of paper butterflies that have "migrated" to students in Mexico for the winter.

The butterflies' fall flight is timed to correspond with the real monarchs' journey south. The paper butterflies arrive in Mexico around the time of the Dia de los Muertos (November 2), just as the real monarchs do. According to Mexican legend, these returning butterflies are thought to carry the ancestors' souls and play a role in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Mexican students at the Museo del Nino and at schools like Pedro Ascencio greet the butterflies and watch over them during the winter months. At the same time in the mountains nearby, the entire eastern population of North American monarch butterflies rests in Mexico for thewinter.

A Farewell Festival
One unique event that takes place in Angangueo every February is the "Festival Cultural de la Mariposa Monarca". At the time of the departure of all the monarch butterflies, the entire town comes together to attend live music concerts, readings, lectures and share delicious food. Everyone is celebrating and honoring the northbound migration of the monarch butterfly and the arrival of the "planting" season. About this same time, the Pedro Ascencio students will write messages on their paper butterflies, so that they too can migrate north, back to students in the United States and Canada. Now the days are warmer, 65 - 70 F with more thunder clouds, but the sun is still very bright as the elevation of Angangueo is close to 9,000 feet above sea level.

This is also the time of year when many tourists come to visit the butterfly sanctuaries, and the town of Angangueo is busier than ever. It is a very beautiful place to see, as many of the traditional homes are not only painted with bright reds, blues, and yellows, but decorated with hundreds of pots of different types of flowers. Every Monday it is especially colorful as villagers come from over 100 kilometers away to sell their goods in the "tiangis" or central market of Angangueo. They sell everything from cactus leaves to fresh meat and fish to hand-woven, wool panchos and ceramic cooking pots.

Angangueo has one narrow road passing through the middle, leading right up to the 11,000 foot mountain tops where many farmers live and grow their crops of corn, wheat and oats. There are about 2,000 people living in and around Angangueo, some are merchants, teachers and farmers throughout the surrounding hillsides, some are professionals such as police, government officials, doctors, dentists, yet the majority of the population are students.

A typical day starts with a breakfast of coffee or tea, fruit, pastries, beans and tortillas by 8:00 A.M. Around 9:00 in the morning, school and businesses open and everyone works until 2:30. Unlike other countries in North America, everything closes from 2:30 until 5:00. Everything! It is very quiet and sometimes people take naps or just relax in their homes after a huge lunch. Perhaps they will eat chicken, potatos, green vegetables, but always some type of soup first and of course tortillas and beans. Later, the stores open again and everyone is working until 8:00 or 9:00 at night, while the students are helping with chores, finishing their homework or visiting with their friends. Usually they eat a very light dinner of tea and bread or fruit and by 10:00 p.m., the whole town of Angangueo is done for the day.

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